(also featured on blogcritics.org, here)
By Clarence Yu
I have to admit that I discovered author Peter D. Schiff the new-fashioned way: via YouTube. A friend of mine insistently kept sending me links to his televised appearances on Fox News and CNBC, so, one day, I finally relented and watched a clip. His words were enough to make me go out and buy the book Crash Proof, which he wrote with John Downes (also by Schiff: The Little Book of Bull Moves In Bear Markets: How to Keep Your Portfolio Up When the Market is Down).
Crash Proof is a book about economics, specifically sub-titled as How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse, and was published in 2007, way before the current worldwide economic crisis hit us. If you're thinking that this was a book that should have been bought and read in 2007, think again. This book has way too much information in it to be treated just as a "how to" guide, and offers plenty of invaluable advice, whether or not we are in a crisis situation.
In Crash Proof, Mr. Schiff gives the reader a back-to-basics lesson in fundamental economics, dispensing with technical economic jargon and instead using conventional day to day conversational language. Mr. Schiff doesn't pretend that you know everything, nor does he spoon feed you with perfect information, so the layperson reading the book is able to stop once in a while and think before continuing on.
Slowly but surely, the reader is treated to doses of common sensical insight and concepts about the mysterious world of economics---for example, carefully explaining what the trade deficit is about and why a capital surplus isn't always that good, among other things. Or what the gold standard was, and what the Fiat system currently is. I never learned that when I was taking up economics in college (perhaps I wasn't listening), but the point I'm making is that I wouldn't be able to explain this to you now had I not read this book. On that point alone, this book is worth its price, and more.
Building from this momentum, Schiff argues on several points on why and how the U.S. economy is in its current state, and offers specific strategies on how to protect yourself from the real estate debacle that already happened (again, the book was published in 2007), what to buy, what not to buy, but most importantly, he presents the logic on which he builds his strategies with a simplicity that is so understandable, until there is absolutely nothing left to explain. In my case, I had to check Wikipedia a few times to check out some definitions in the book, but not nearly as much as when I read the newspapers or when I inadvertently happen to find myself in the middle of a conversation on economics (not my favorite topic, now and forever).
But what is most admirable and noteworthy about Mr. Schiff's approach is his apparent ideology: he advocates a shift in American economic policy back to manufacturing goods (production), living beneath your means, saving your hard earned money, and emphasizes, in so many words, the value of hard work, as opposed to borrowing to fund your needs. Work and use common sense, Schiff seems to be saying, and you will reap. Followers and worshippers of the Federal Reserve, Allan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke may have trouble reading this book, but nonetheless, it can’t be denied that the advice Schiff dispenses is invaluable and logical.
The title Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse doesn’t really do the book enough justice, for the content is more than just about that. And though most of the scenarios painted within the book aren't exactly all about sunshine and rainbows, the context in which Mr. Schiff writes --- the worldwide economic crisis --- allows for him to explain economic concepts which are much more understandable to the reader, because of the immediate urgency of this context.
For anyone who has always wanted a solid, easy to read and practical book about economics, but has always been put off by the usual difficult economic terminology, have no fear. Crash Proof will not exactly show you the way out of the tunnel, but it will enlighten you, amuse you and inform you along the way.